Plaistow mourns death of oldest park tree

A stump is all that is left of a sugar maple that stood in Pollard Square Park in Plaistow for more than a century.

PLAISTOW — The town is mourning the death of a large sugar maple that has stood in Pollard Square Park for generations and provided shade over a monument of a Civil War soldier.

The tree was estimated to be between 150 and 180 years old and was the oldest in the park outside the town hall, but age took its toll and created safety concerns that prompted town officials to have it cut down Monday after a large limb rotted and came crashing down last week.

The limb narrowly missed the war monument, but landed on two cannons next to it. Fortunately, officials said, the cannons weren’t damaged.

“It’s sad to see it go, but we’d hate to see someone get hurt,” Highway Supervisor Dan Garlington said.

Plaistow mourns death of oldest park tree

A sugar maple, seen here before it was removed on Monday, provided a large area of shade around a Civil War monument.

For Town Historian Jim Peck, the tree is a big loss, not only because of the shade that it provided, but because of the history that it witnessed for so many years.

“This tree was there through a lot of stuff. There were a lot of events that happened in the park and that tree was there. It provides a sense of the town’s history. A lot of people can’t explain it, but they know it’s a big loss to them and it’s a change and it’s difficult to adapt to,” he said.

Plaistow is home to the biggest and oldest American elm and buttonwood tree in Rockingham County, said Peck, who studied the town’s trees and submitted information to the state to see whether they were record holders.

Peck said he measured the American elm on Elm Street a couple of years ago and nominated it as the biggest in the state. He said it was confirmed as the biggest, but a few weeks later someone else nominated a tree in Dover that turned out to be bigger.

Peck said the Dover tree is going to be remeasured and it’s possible that the Plaistow elm could end up being the biggest again.

In the meantime, Peck said, the rings of the sugar maple will be counted to better determine the tree’s age. A slice of the tree was brought to the Plaistow Historical Society for further examination and it will likely join another slice from an American elm that stood at the corner of Main and Elm streets from 1791 to 1975.

Plaistow mourns death of oldest park tree

This photograph shows a much smaller sugar maple as it appeared in 1914.

The trees in Pollard Square Park are inspected annually by an arborist, according to Town Manager Mark Pearson.

Garlington said an arborist took a closer look at the sugar maple after the large limb fell in light winds last week.

He said the tree was compromised and became a risk in the park, which hosts many town events including this past Wednesday’s ceremony honoring Plaistow victim Carol Flyzik and others who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.

The tree was taken down in pieces, Garlington said. The bottom half, which was about 15 feet long, weighed roughly 7,000 pounds, he said.

Pearson said any concerns about trees in the town park that are considered historic are brought to the attention of selectmen and that the decision to remove is based on the recommendation of the arborist.

“Everybody came to the same conclusion for safety reasons,” Pearson said.